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Cuts for Columbia Public Schools in the future

Monday, February 8, 2010 | 10:05 p.m. CST; updated 11:04 p.m. CST, Monday, February 8, 2010

COLUMBIA — Fourth and fifth graders will be taught science in their regular classrooms next school year.

The Columbia School Board unanimously voted Monday night to cut about 75 positions next year, including more than 10 science specialist positions.

“Do we want to do this? The answer is no. Do we have to do this? The answer is yes,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said.

Belcher emphasized that the science curriculum will not be dropped, but will be taught differently.

 Other positions cut include:

  • 3.7 curriculum and instruction staff
  • 10 clerical staff
  • 5 health services/clerical staff
  • 3 media specialists
  • 22 secondary (teachers, administrators, and support staff)
  • 12 elementary (teachers, administrators, and support staff)
  • 7 special education (certified and paraprofessional) staff
  • 2 elementary guidance staff

"There's only so many ways you can get at budget reductions when 80 percent of your budget is based on personnel," Belcher said. "That's what makes this so sad."

The School Board debated making cuts to several programs, but agreed that a vote for these cuts must be unanimous. These cuts were tabled because board members Jan Mees, Tom Rose, James Whitt and Ines Segert said they would have voted against them.

Programs recommended for re-examination by the Columbia Public School District include:

  • Parents as Teachers
  • middle school athletics
  • before- and after-school elementary choir
  • school resource officer reductions
  • before- and after-school supervision
  • adult education expenses
  • reduction in extended-day contract

Under the cuts, middle school athletics would have lost $38,000. The proposed budget suggested sixth and seventh grade students play some sports within their own schools. The current system allows all seventh graders that want to play for a team to compete against students from other schools.

“Sometimes that’s the only time those kids will ever be able to make that team,” Whitt said.

The proposed budget docked elementary before- and after-school choir by $35,000 and the Parents as Teachers program by $50,000. 

Belinda Masters, the coordinator of the Parents as Teachers program, stated that the program serves more than 3,400 families in Columbia. More than half of those families have children with identified risks for school failure and social problems. 

“It has always been first come, first serve. However, we want to get into crisis situations as soon as possible,” Masters said. “Once they make that commitment, we need to get in there and we need to get in there fast … if not, we’re going to lose them.”

—Missourian reporters Jonathan Hinderliter and Kelly Brdicka contributed to this report.


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